Ida Rhodes

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Ida Rhodes (15 May 1900 - 1 February 1986) was a mathematician who became a member of the clique of influential women at the heart of early computer development in the United States.

Ida Rhodes (birth name Hadassah Itzkowitz) was born in a Jewish village between Nemyriv and Tulchyn in the Ukraine. She came to the United States in 1913 and was studying mathematics at Cornell University only six years later.

She received her BA in mathematics in February, 1923 and her MA in September of the same year, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. She later studied at Columbia University in 1930 and 1931.

Rhodes held numerous positions involving mathematical computations before she joined the Mathematical Tables Project in 1940, where she worked under Gertrude Blanch, whom she would later credit as her mentor.

She was a pioneer in the analysis of systems of programming, and with Betty Holberton designed the C-10 programming language in the early 1950s for the UNIVAC I. She also designed the original computer used for the Social Security Administration. In 1949, the Department of Commerce awarded her an Gold Medal for "significant pioneering leadership and outstanding contributions to the scientific progress of the Nation in the functional design and the application of electronic digital computing equipment."

Though she retired in 1964, Rhodes continued to consult for the Applied Mathematics Division of the National Bureau of Standards until 1971. Her work became much more widely known after her retirement, as she took the occasion to travel around the globe, lecturing and maintaining international correspondence.

In 1976, the Department of Commerce presented her with a further Certificate of Appreciation on the 25th Anniversary of UNIVAC I, and then at the 1981 Computer Conference cited her a third time as a "UNIVAC I pioneer." She died in 1986.

In an unusual case of an old specialized algorithm still in use, and still credited to the original developer, Rhodes was responsible for the "Jewish Holiday" algorithms used in calendar programs to this day.

Sources[edit]

  • National Institute of Standards and Technology virtual museum
  • Blanch Anniversary Volume, February 21, 1967
  • Charlene Morrow and Teri Peri (eds), Notable Women in Mathematics, Greenwood Press, 1998, pp. 180-185.